It is getting truly exhausting seeing so many critical takes on Rwandan leadership, which deliberately sidestep the truth. The Duclert rapport, while suggesting France’s “willingness” to accept a degree of responsibility for the 1994 Genocide Against The Tutsi, adopts a disingenuous stance similar to that of most of the anti-Kagame narratives peddled by the West. Yes, the French government chose to support a Genocidaire Government. Yes, the perpetrators of crimes against the Tutsi found safe refuge in France, cocooned in the protective bubble the democracy avengers create specifically for war criminals that have defended European interests. Yes, France knew who shot Habyarimana’s plane down; yes, France allowed a lie to fester: lies that continue to justify the genocide and support double-genocide theory. Despite all these, France is, miraculously, not at fault.
There is a common denominator here. It connects France’s support for the genocide perpetrators to western distaste towards a leader fighting for the revival of a united Rwandan nation. If only one could put their finger on this common denominator that escapes even the “brightest” of Western minds, an entire commission of historians may not be needed next time France is willing to accept a shred of accountability.
No Healing Through Avoidance
We must confront the root of the issue. Is there something about the existence of a proud and united African nation that some (apparently, many) still find intolerable? It is strange how many foreign entities simultaneously voice their admiration for Rwanda’s efforts towards development, economic growth and social reconciliation, and open hostility for the leader that has brought about those changes.
The social policies that have defended the dignity of the Rwandan people, elevating their rights to safety, health and other basic human needs to the supposedly unattainable “western” or “first-world” level, are celebrated while the brain behind those policies is chastised. It seems that no good African socio-political deed can go unpunished. I question this desire to destroy and undermine, as if to prove Rwandans – Africans, really – inherently unworthy of the fate they seek to craft for themselves. It reeks of racism.
I suspect their failure to shake Kagame’s confidence might be related to their constant criticism of his leadership choices. When speaking to the democracy avengers, with their flashy weapons and unwavering self-righteousness, an African is expected to display docility and is then rewarded for it. The very people accused of weaponizing their pain are expected to remain locked in a state of victimhood, supporting the script that dehumanizes them: they are broken, they are lost, they are powerless. Any other reality threatens the ex-colonisers’ sense of self: it is erected, after all, on the notion of our inherent inferiority without which it (sense of self) collapses. But the psychosis of white superiority is perverse. Founded in delusions, it cannot exist without constant feeding. Africans must play their part – as indeed some Africans do when they participate in the West’s attempt to infantilize Kagame despite his commitment to improving the lives of Rwandans – in order for Westerners to persist in this delusion of theirs.
So, in a sadistic attempt to exert a craved dominance, they ask Africans to continuously beg for the freedom – independence – they claimed was ours half a century ago. But to lead a people who were once characterized as “vermin” on international television by a government minister from a neighbouring country, one cannot ask for permission to combat threats to our existence. Rwandans will not negotiate their humanity.
As a woman, I find it hard not to draw similarities between the treatment of post-genocide Rwanda and that received by countless women after being violated. When a woman is raped, there are typically three responses: 1) it did not happen; 2) if it did happen, she asked for it; and 3) if it wasn’t her fault, the way in which she went about seeking justice was flawed; therefore, she’s entirely unworthy of any justice nor sympathy. From genocide denial to victims being accused of causing their own attempted extermination, to President Kagame facing more criticism by Westerners who rather than condemn suspects for causing terror criticize him for how terror suspects were apprehended, the victim-blaming is all-too-familiar.
It seems oppressors do not defend those whose identity they want rooted in submission. Instead, oppressors consider this refusal to sit in the victimhood crafted for them as an act of insolence. It is no coincidence that the verbiage used by the West (and their pawns dressed in black African skin) equates President Kagame’s unapologetic stance on the dignity of his people to an abuse of power, when in fact, it is a refusal to have the Rwandan people suffer the historically unkind western supremacy. We, Africans, will not kneel and beg for absolution for crimes committed against us. Confronting the root of the reason this fact is unpleasant to so many is primordial.
Pan-Africanism Is Within Unlearning’s Reach
Not a single African is free, as long as Africanness is defined by populations across oceans. Clearly, those that do not fit within its tight, incapacitating boundaries are deemed undeserving of existing as Africans. Drilling into the truth may feel like reopening old wounds. However wounds cannot heal as long as the poison sunk beneath their surface isn’t sucked out. Obscure ideas of the “real” African as weak, undignified and unclean must be targeted and destroyed. Africans have never wanted political and economic enslavement to the West draped in the illusion of democracy. We have always wanted and deserved to be safe: to live with dignity and to be able to embrace our plurality. This is true freedom, and Pan-Africans must know that it is not the West’s to give.
If Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba were murdered to prevent their Pan-African agenda from gaining support and traction, but geriatric genocidaires evading both justice and their scheduled meeting with the devil can enjoy the protection of western states, it is fair to conclude that our safety and wellness hardly top western priorities. However, those who defend African interests through and through mysteriously wind up dead, tried and charged in “international” courts, or have their credibility as capable leaders attacked by the Western world until their ability to rule peacefully is compromised.
I speak, once more, to my fellow Africans: playing in western hands, internalizing their prejudices as our own and perceiving their self-serving history revision as universal truths will not free any single one of us. Instead, we must keep asking those difficult questions: what is it about the resilience of Rwandans that is so destabilizing to the West and, surprisingly, even to fellow Rwandans?